Luke tells the story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem with these words:
He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:5-7 (NRSV)
I love that part of the story, and the “no place for them in the inn” is always a haunting image. Because of that image, we want everyone to have a place to go, a family to be with, at Christmas time.
It is rare in life when we get to change such a powerful image, but this year that is exactly what happened. Our conference has been asked to assist in housing single parents and children who were picked up by authorities, processed, and are now heading to their family in the US. They are travelers seeking a place to call home and seeking to reunite with loved ones. They come with young children, most often toddlers.
This morning I talked with one mom who had been traveling since October 5th with her young son. She was in her third month of traveling, and she told me about the long days of walking across countries. She was understandably tired. Her young son’s face lit up when I mentioned that we had milk and cereal. Mom told me he loves milk, and they were hungry. This mom and son are heading to their family in the East Coast, so will be on a bus for a few more days. I wish you could have seen their smiles when they found out that they would be well cared for and soon home.
While this young mom and her son are in our church, they will get rest, food, warmth, safety, and love. And they will have hope for the last leg of their journey home.
We have two churches in Tucson that are housing the families in transition. The very first family came to one of the churches, and Jamie checked them in and took the names. The first name registered was Jesus. Jesus was traveling with his son to his family, and he was very tired and very grateful for the safety and love shown him and his child. And that has been the most common response we have seen: a deep sense of gratitude.
So, Jesus did find a place in the inn. We have named what we are doing, The Inn Project, because it is Advent, and we are all waiting for room in the inn.
Maybe you want to be a part and experience the joy we have been feeling. If you want to volunteer, you can help us host and welcome our travelers. We need Spanish speakers. We need people who know how to love and protect so that a weary mom or dad, can rest before they leave for their home. If you would like to join us with your presence, just register online at: www.dscumc.org/theinnproject . I can tell you that you will be the one feeling grateful. For when we change an image, when we provide a place at the inn, it is our hearts that are transformed.
Merry Christmas! I hope you get to know the joy before Christmas comes.
Faith, hope, & love,
Rev. Dr. Dottie Escobedo-Frank
South District Superintendent
Desert Southwest Conference
The United Methodist Church